Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tinkov's Triple Tour Challenge: 10 Fun Facts

OK, so Oleg Tinkov has made an offer and it's got people talking. Which is probably his main aim, he's like that, never shy of a bit of entertaining nonsense or stirring the pot with ideas from outside the cycling box.

But I'm not so sure it's an offer too good to refuse.

So unless you've not kept an eye on any cycling news media channel over past week, then you'll no doubt have seen news of the challenge.

Here's the cyclingnews.com link:
Tinkov offers a €1 million to Contador and his Grand Tour rivals

In a nutshell, this is Tinkov's offer as quoted in the above article:

"If Quintana, Froome, Nibali and Contador all agree to ride all three Grand Tours, I'll get Tinkoff Bank to put up €1 million. They can have €250,000 each as an extra incentive. I think it's a good idea,"

Personally I just don't see it happening, simply because the risk to a rider's peak performance is too great and the proposed reward too little to compensate for throwing away the prize money and sponsorship attainable from a GT victory, especially a Tour de France victory. I'm just not convinced on the ROI.

Others have written about it and I don't propose at this time to add much to those discussions. For a couple of perspectives, see Inrng's comments about the practicality and marketing, and Science of Sport's take on the (not unsubstantial) physiological consideration:

inrng: Oleg Tinkov’s Indecent Proposal

The Science of Sport: Tinkov’s 3 Grand Tour challenge: Physiological, or folly?


Instead I thought I'd list some fun facts about the history of riders who have completed all three Grand Tours in the same year. Remember that the Vuelta a España only began in 1935, compared with 1909 for the Giro d'Italia and 1903 for the Tour de France. So we about talking about 70 years of all three grand tours, however due to various wars and a calendar gap, in 12 of those years not all three grand tours were contested.

So here are 10 fun facts about riders who have completed all three grand tours in the same year:

#1
Only 32 riders have ever completed all three Grand Tours in a season (the same year).

#2
The completion of all three Grand Tours in same season has only been been done 41 times.

#3
Marino Lejarreta (ESP) did it four times between 1987 and 1991.

#4
Adam Hansen (AUS) has completed 10 consecutive Grand Tours, the most by any individual. The first of this remarkable feat being the 2011 Vuelta and since the last was the 2014 Vuelta, he can extend that record in 2015 if he completes the Giro d'Italia.

#5
Only one rider ever has won a Grand Tour and completed all three Grand Tours in one season. Gastone Nencini (ITA) won the 1957 Giro.

#6
Podiums are rare from riders who complete all three Grand Tours. Including Nencini, only five riders have ever managed that feat.

#7
Others podium finishers who also completed all three Grand Tours in the same year include:
Marzio Bruseghin (ITA) 3rd Giro 2008;
Marino Lejarreta (ITA) 3rd Vuelta 1991;
Bernardo Ruiz (ESP) 3rd Vuelta 1957;
Raphael Geminiani (FRA) 3rd Vuelta 1955

#8
No rider ever has won or placed on podium at the Tour de France and completed all three Grand Tours in the same year.

#9
The nearest to completing that feat was Carlos Sastre (ESP) with 4th place Tour de France 2006.

#10
Only two riders have completed all three Grand Tours in a season and finished top 10 in each: Geminiani in 1955 and Nencini in 1957.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Alpe d'Huez: TDF Fastest Ascent Times 1982-2013

In this June 2013 post I outlined the average speed of the five fastest times up Alpe d'Huez each year during the Tour de France since 1982.

The data was sourced from the posts by Ammatti Pyoraily on this Finnish forum. Thanks to him we have lots of data on times to compare over many years.

At the time of writing I hadn't the data for the 2013 ascent (since TDF is in July each year), so here is an updated chart for reference:


Here are the top 5 from 2013:


The Tour visits Alpe d'Huez again in 2015.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Power Meter usage still on the rise at Kona

Last year in this post I put together a chart showing the trends in power meter usage at the Kona World Ironman Championships since 2009.

Lava Magazine have once again done a complete bike and equipment count for Kona 2014, and I've been looking at the power meter part of that count. The data I have is preliminary as posted by Brad Culp of Lava Magazine. I'll post the online link with the count data when available.

2014 Kona IM Bike Count

Here's an updated chart and table for the six years from 2009 to 2014. Just click on the image to see a larger version.



In brief, we can see there has been a continuation of the strong trend in use of power meters, with 45% of all bikes now fitted with a power meter.

The two long established brands, SRM and Powertap, have fallen away a little in absolute numbers as well as total share dropping, while Quarq usage has grown again and it remains the dominant power meter brand for Kona IM athletes with more than double the usage of the next most popular brand, SRM.

Most of  the growth in total power meter usage is attributed to the use of newer power meter brands, with Power2Max, Garmin Vector and Stages being prominent in increasing the overall size of the power meter pie.

Speaking of pies, here is the 2014 breakdown in pie form:



It's interesting to note how evenly split the major power meter brands are.

What will 2015 show? I guess we'll see the number of bikes with power meters out numbering those without for the first time.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

W/m^2, Altitude and the Hour Record

More hour record stuff to follow on from the item on Jens Voigt's hour ride.

This time to look at the physics impact of increasing altitude. I'll layer on top of this the physiological impact in a future post.

tldr version, click on this chart:



In brief:
- for a given W/m^2, you'll go faster as altitude increases
- for a given speed, the W/m^2 required reduces with altitude
- for a given altitude, to go faster the W/m^2 required increases

Now the long version:

There are two major factors which determine the speed a rider can maintain on flat terrain such as a velodrome, that being their power output and the air resistance. Or put another way, these are the primary energy supply and demand factors. There are other smaller energy factors as well (mostly on the demand side) but power output and air resistance are by far the most important when it comes to riding an hour record attempt on velodromes (or any race of individual speed on flatter terrain).

Energy Supply

What power output one can sustain for an hour is a function of several underlying factors that I discuss in this post. We influence that primarily through training, and of course to a large extent it depends upon the genetic gifts we are blessed with*.

There is of course also the physiological impact of altitude, as the partial pressure of oxygen reduces with increasing altitude, and as a result, so reduces the power we are able to maximally sustain aerobically (with oxygen). How much reduction in power occurs with altitude is individually variable, and you can acclimate to some extent as well, but there is no denying that once altitude starts getting high, ability to generate power definitely falls away.

I go through some of this in this post on altitude training, and I will be returning to this and its impact on hour records in a future post.

Energy Demand

For hour records on a velodrome, air resistance accounts for more than 90% of the total energy demand factors. In the case of  indoor velodromes and speeds in the 50-56km/h range, it's of the order of 92-93% of the total energy demand, with the balance mostly being rolling resistance and other frictional energy losses, and a tiny fraction in kinetic energy changes. This dominance of air resistance in the energy demand is why there is such a solid relationship between speed and the ratio of power to aerodynamic drag.

Air resistance & CdA

Air resistance on a cyclist is a function of several factors, being:
- the bike and rider's coefficient of air drag (Cd),
- their effective frontal area (A),
- the speed they are travelling at,
- the speed and relative direction of any wind, and
- the density of the air.

The coefficient of drag (Cd) and frontal area (A) multiply together to give us a measure of a rider's air resistance property - CdA. A lower CdA means you can go faster for the same power, or less power is required to sustain the same speed.

CdA is something a rider can change through bike positional and equipment choices (e.g. using an aerodynamic tuck position reduces your CdA compared with sitting more upright, or using deep section wheels with fewer spokes lowers CdA compared with using shallow box section rims with lots of spokes).

So to ride faster on an indoor velodrome where there is no tail or head wind to aid or hinder, you'll need to either:
- increase your power output, or
- reduce your CdA, or
- reduce the density of air you are riding through.

Or of course some net combination of all three that results in more speed.

It is possible that one can produce less power but have a significant reduction in air resistance factors such that the resulting speed is higher. For example, sometimes there is trade off between the advantage gained from use of an aerodynamic position on a bike, even though there may be a sacrifice of some power output due to the impact the aggressive bike position has on a rider's bio-mechanical effectiveness.

It all boils down to W/m^2

Robert Chung some years ago published a nice chart that shows the equivalency of speed on flat terrain with the ratio of power to CdA:

What we can see in this chart is how well Power/CdA can help estimate speed on flat road terrain over a wide range of power outputs and CdA values. Of course it's not a perfect correlation, as you can attain a slightly higher speed with the same W/m^2 as the power (and CdA) increases. So even if you share the same W/m^2 as another rider, the rider that has more absolute power will still be ever so slightly faster.

Not by much though. As an example, if we compared two riders on a low rolling resistance velodrome, one with 400W and another with 10% more power (440W) and both had the same power to CdA ratio of 1700W/m^2, then the more powerful rider will only be ~0.1km/h or 0.2% faster (all else equal). Like I said, there's not much in it.

I also showed this in the chart from my previous post on the Jens Voigt hour ride, where estimating his W/m^2 with reasonable precision is much easier than his absolute power. If the power was lower, so the W/m^2 must be a little higher, but not by much. Over a 100W (25-30%) range of possible power outputs, the W/m^2 required to attain the same speed varies by only 2%.

So even if we consider a range of power outputs typical for elite riders of the calibre likely to attempt an hour record ride, the W/m^2 ratio required for a given speed on a given velodrome will be within a pretty tight range.

Air density

Air density however isn't quite as easy for an individual to control, as it is largely a function of environmental conditions, in particular:
- air temperature,
- barometric pressure, and
- altitude.

Air density drops with an increase in temperature and altitude, and with a reduction in barometric pressure. Humidity also affects air density, but only by a very small amount (humid air is marginally less dense than dry air). So while a rider cannot control the atmospheric barometric pressure, they can choose a velodrome with a temperature control system, or one that will likely be warm, as well as choose from a range of tracks that are at different altitudes.

Altitude and its impact on speed

So given all that, I thought I'd look at how the combined effect of the power and aero drag values required to ride at certain speeds varies with altitude. As is typical of me, I've summarised this in a chart shown below. As usual, click on the image to see a larger version.


It's not overly complex, but let me explain.

On the vertical axis is the ratio of power output to the coefficient of aero drag x frontal area (CdA). Power / CdA in units of watts per metres squared.

On the horizontal axis is altitude in metres.

Then I have plotted a series of slightly curves lines, one each for speed ranging in 1km/h increments from 47km/h to 56km/h, and another line for 56.375km/h, which is the speed Chris Boardman averaged for his hour record.

For the sake of comparison, I've fixed the air temperature, barometric pressure, bike + rider mass and rolling resistance to be constant values for each. I did a little variation of power, but not much, and as I have demonstrated, the impact is very small.

So if we look at any particular line, we can see how the W/m^2 required to sustain that speed reduces as altitude increases. And of course we can see that for any given W/m^2 the speed you can sustain varies with altitude.

e.g. let's take 1800W/m^2. At sea level, the 1800W/m^2 line crosses the 51km/h line. As you trace horizontally from left to right, the 1800W/m^2 crosses the speed lines roughly as follows:
51km/h @ sea level
52km/h @ ~500m altitude
53km/h @ ~1000m
54km/h @ ~1450m
55km/h @ ~1950m
56km/h @ ~2450m

So naturally there is interest in using tracks at higher altitudes in order to ride faster and set records.

Now of course different tracks have variable quality surfaces, and so the assumption of rolling resistance being equal at all tracks is not valid, so any comparison of actual tracks should also consider impact of changes to coefficient of rolling resistance (Crr). Even so, since Crr accounts for only ~ 5-6% of the total energy demand, then track smoothness, while a factor, is more important when considering tracks at similar altitudes.

But what about power output at altitude?

Well of course there is a trade off between the speed benefit of lower air density at increasing altitudes, and the reduction in a rider's power output as partial pressure of O2 falls.

Hence as altitude increases, while a rider's CdA will not change, their power output will fall and hence their W/m^2 will also fall accordingly. So the W/m^2 line for any individual won't be horizontal, but rather trend downwards from left to right.

How quickly an individual's W/m^2 line drops away with altitude then determines the real speed impact of altitude.

So, what's the optimal altitude for an hour record?

I'm going to explore that in a future post (although I'm certainly not the first to have done so). So stay tuned.


* Pithy Power Proverb: "Choose your parents wisely".

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hour record: Jens Voigt

Plenty has been written about Jen's Voigt's successful attempt at the new UCI hour record, set under the recently revised rules which permits the same bike set up currently used for the individual pursuit.

I thought I'd just add a chart to illustrate what sort of power and aerodynamic drag would be required to attain the result Jens achieved. The chart below summarises these key numbers and plots the CdA v power required, and shows the ratios of power to coefficient of drag area and power to body mass.

Where on that line Jens was, I don't know exactly, but it will be somewhere along there, or nearby. Click on the chart to open a larger version so you can see the numbers.


Jens' power to CdA ratio was in the range of
1715 - 1750 W/m^2.

Let me add some detail as to how the chart is derived, the assumptions used and key sensitivities. First the numbers we know.

Distance travelled and speed
Jen's official distance for the hour was 51.115km, which is calculated by the number of whole and partial laps completed x 250m per lap. Now we know from video that Jens did not always ride a perfect line around the track, and so his wheels actually travelled further than the official distance. Riding a good line is all part of the skill of track racing, so Jens likely cost himself some official distance.

So when calculating what speed Jens was actually doing, we'd need to know his actual wheel speed or distance per lap. However since air resistance acts mostly on where the centre of mass of the bike and rider is, which on a velodrome travels a distance less than that of the wheels, then we'd also need to factor in the lean angle of the bike and rider. Now I'm not going to attempt to do that. The data does actually exist as it was recorded by the Alphamantis Track Aero System which performs such calculations on the fly, but I don't have it.

In any case, I am going to assume that the extra distance travelled by Jens' wheels was cancelled out by the lean angle meaning Jens' centre of mass travelled about the same as the officially recorded distance. It's difficult without more data to be more precise than that, but it's a reasonable assumption.

Complicating the speed equation was Jens' pacing, which was somewhat variable, starting strongly, falling into a lull and then increasing somewhat in the final 10-15 minutes of the ride. So there would have been quite some variations in the power output during the ride. Of course the event starts from a an electronic gate that holds the rider, and there is some extra effort require to get up to speed which takes 10-15 seconds, so while it's a factor, it's a pretty small one in the the overall hour.

Here is a picture posted by Xavier Disley on his twitter account, showing lap by lap speeds, and when Jens got up out of saddle briefly:


In any case, I am going to work with the overall average speed of the rider as 51.115km/h.

Environmental conditions
Based on Weather Underground link the following conditions existed at the time of the ride:

Air pressure: 1012hPa
Humidity: 60%
Outdoors there was a light wind of 2-3km/h and no precipitation.

Temperature:
A spectator at the track reported the temperature indoors was 26C. Outside it was 20C with a maximum of 23C, so the reported indoor temperature is plausible and I'll go with that.

Altitude:
430m at Grenchen, Switzerland.

All of this provides an air density value of 1.114kg/m^3.

Rider and equipment mass
Trek reported via social media Jens' body weight to be 76kg. It may have been a little more but it's not a number that is particular critical to the calculations, as this is all about power and air drag.

Bike/kit mass - I'm going to assume ~ 8kg, again the calculations are not overly sensitive to this value.

As an example of this insensitivity, changing rider's mass by 5% only introduces a 0.3% error into the W/m^2 calculations.

Rolling resistance
I'm going to assume a coefficient of rolling resistance (Crr) of 0.0025, which is about typical for a quality set of track tyres on a quality wooden indoor velodrome. I did some calculations for Crr of 0.002 and 0.003, which is quite a broad range for such tracks and tyres and it only changes the power demand by approximately  +/- 1.5%. This is because rolling resistance accounts for less than 10% of the total energy demand for the event.

Power and coefficient of drag area
OK, so given all that, what power and aerodynamic numbers would be required to do what Jens did?

Well we can't really know what power Jens averaged for the effort unless Trek release the data, but what we can say is what his power to air drag ratio was. To ride that speed, it would be in the range of 1715 to 1750 W/m^2.

That's an average, as of course Jens' actual instantaneous CdA did vary as he changed position on the bike at times. He was mostly in his aero bars but was occasionally standing up on the pedals or making other adjustments.

This chart shows the line along which Jens likely falls somewhere. If his power was lower, then his CdA must have also been lower in order to maintain power to drag ratio in the range of ~ 1715-1750 W/m^2.

The chart also then shows what his power to body mass ratio would be (assuming 76kg), so we can see the wide range of power capability possible to attain such a speeds. You don't need big power, if you are very slippery through the air.

Aero matters. A lot.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Null Hypothesis

Recently a new aerodynamics cycling product came to my attention, and the company behind it makes some extraordinary claims about the speed improvement attainable. As Marcello Truzzi would say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. So let's have a look at one such claim.

The product is the Nullwinds Upper Wheel Fairings. Here's their weblink:
http://www.nullwinds.com/products-fairings.html


The idea is pretty simple, add some fairings that cover the upper part of the wheels and bingo, instant aerodynamic improvement. Well that's not so remarkable, it's pretty common to attain an aerodynamic improvement through use of fairings. It's also why such things are banned in competition for cyclists and triathletes, but that's not the issue here as Nullwinds is targeting this to non-competitive riders looking for a speed advantage.

OK, that's fine, we all could use a boost.

Just so it's clear, an aerodynamics improvement means the drag coefficient of the bike and rider is reduced so that you require less power to sustain the same speed, or for the same power you can ride faster. Nice.

So let's examine one such scenario as listed on their website as being a Strong Headwind Test:

NOVICE RIDER February 9, 2014 
1. Test Summary 
The best available data taken on February 9, 2014, indicates that the use of our Upper Wheel Fairings on a typical road bike with a novice rider under strong headwind conditions yields gains in average speed exceeding 20 percent (22.2 percent was recorded). (The full report is available for download.) Power measuring tests in severe headwinds were conducted on identical multi-speed road bikes configured with and without wheel fairings. A novice cyclist was the rider. Data was recorded using an i-bike Newton power meter. 

2. Implications The results confirm that the use of our Upper Wheel Fairings can dramatically increase headwind penetration speeds of a novice rider under strong headwind conditions. Gains exceeding 20 percent are possible.

So, Nullwinds claim a novice rider riding into a strong headwind will be able to achieve a speed gain of more than 20% by putting these fairings onto their bike.

Well to Nullwinds credit they have at least published some information in an attempt to back up their claims. They:
  • did some testing to attempt to demonstrate the effectiveness of their product (tick)
  • attempted to establish some testing controls (tick, but they were not so successful as we'll see later)
  • published data for some of those tests (tick - more detail in pdf here)
  • claimed some impressive results (hmmm, no tick)
Unfortunately, Nullwinds missed an important step before the final one, which was to examine their own data before making their extraordinary claim. So let's do that step for them.

The details of their testing protocols and measurements are outlined in the document and I won't repeat them here, just summarise: They used two identical bikes each with an ibike Newton bike computer/power meter as a data logger, one bike fitted with the Nullwinds Upper Wheel Fairings, and the other without. They asked a novice rider to ride into the wind over a designated section of pretty flat road, doing a run or runs on each of the bikes, and to keep their effort level about the same for each run.

All the bike/rider data was recorded by the ibike, charts are shown in the pdf document along with other information such as weather conditions, details about the venue and tests controls. I'll list all the important details below.

Wind: Headwind of 23mph (10.3 m/s)
An attempt was made to ride each bike in similar wind conditions, so I'm going to take their word for it. You can read details of how they managed that in the document. Whether this is the actual headwind faced by the rider is hard to know, they are relying on the ibike Newton to provide the data.

Power: 149.4W
They reported 149.4W for the rider on the non-faired bike. I'll crunch the numbers to see what reduction in CdA is required to attain the claimed speed improvement at the same power. I'll also come back to this, as the power output reported for the faired bike run was not the same as for the non-faired bike run. Power is of course being reported by an ibike Newton, so who knows how reliable the data really is, but nonetheless let's assume that's the actual power and check the numbers to see if it makes sense (turns out it does, more or less, if you believe the wind speed data).

CdA: 0.372m^2 (non-faired bike)
They report a coefficient of drag area of 0.372m^2 for the non-faired bike. I've no reason to question whether that's correct or not, it's a plausible number for a novice on a standard steel framed road bike. We are of course testing relative changes due to the fairing in any case, and we'll just have to assume the rider maintained the same or very similar position on the bike.

Crr: 0.0054
They report a coefficient of rolling resistance of 0.0054 and again I've no reason to suspect that's wildly wrong as it sounds plausible for road bike on a road. I will keep that constant (as they did).

Gradient: +0.29% (unfaired) and +0.55% (faired)
This one is tricky as they report a different average road slope for each test. +0.29% non-faired test and +0.55% for the faired bike test. While the test was conducted over the same 1.5-mile stretch of road, they chose slightly different 1-kilometre sections from each run's data to make the comparison. They did this to choose a section which provided the same average headwind speed.

Mass: 188lbs (85.3kg)
They report 188lbs. I don't know if that's bike + rider or just rider but I'll assume that's total mass, and there was no mass change between the rides. On flat terrain, the outcomes in terms of impact on speed are quite insensitive to changes in mass anyway.

Air density: 1.108kg/m^3
They report 70F (21.1C) and 1020hPa for their calculations, no humidity reported but weather report they provided shows that to be between ~30% and 50%. I'll use 40% (the air density calculation is very insensitive to changes in humidity anyway). They don't report elevation but the road used was right next to Fox Airfield in California and the airfield is reported to be at an elevation of 2351 feet (717 metres) above sea level. That gives an air density of 1.108kg/m^3.

Speed:
So with those power and other assumptions, using the model by Martin et al, you'd expect a rider on an non-faired bike to attain a speed of 3.32m/s = 11.93 km/h = 7.42 mph

They reported an average speed on the non-faired bike run of 7.2mph. So on the whole, the numbers seem to be in the right ball park.

OK, so what improvement in aerodynamics, that is, what reduction in CdA would be required, all else the same, to attain the claimed speed increase of 22.2% (i.e. from 7.42 to 9.07 mph)?

The CdA required at same power would be 0.244m^2.
That's a reduction in CdA of nearly 0.13m^2, a 34% reduction!

That's the equivalent of removing all of the air drag of the entire bike and some of the rider!

Houston, we have a problem.

Now here's the kicker: the faired bike run reported average power of 202.9W, some 53.5W (+35.8%) more than during the non-faired bike run. Nullwinds also reported the rider's heart rate was 10% higher for the faired bike run than the non-faired bike run.

It's no wonder the rider went faster on the faired bike.
They simply rode harder.

So knowing that, what did Nullwinds report the faired bike CdA to be?

0.369m^2, a drop of only 0.003m^2 or just 0.8% less than for the non-faired bike.

It's a real marketing bugger when the actual size of your "benefit" is quite a bit less than the error in measurement, and doesn't sound anywhere nearly as impressive as a 20+% gain in speed.

Sorry Nullwinds, your claims of big speed improvement attainable as a result of using your Upper Wheel Fairings are not plausible. Unless perhaps there are secret stashes of EPO hidden behind them.

Read More......

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Positioned for Speed

Last week I had the pleasure of co-delivering the first "Positioned for Speed" Course held in Australia, which is part of Retül University's growing list of international course offerings. Many thanks to Matt and Nick at Retül and Andy and the guys at Alphamantis for the opportunity, it was a lot of fun. Looking forward to doing more of them (if they'll have me back that is!).

The two day course was aimed at bike fitters and coaches primarily, and gave attendees an introduction to the theory of aerodynamics relevant to cycling, an understanding of how the theory applies to the practical considerations of bike fitting, what elements of aerodynamics we can influence and improve, how we quantify the impact to performance, as well a chance to design and conduct an aero testing session with a test subject.

I had fun explaining the theoretical aspects, then helping the participants understand and experience exactly how to translate these into actual testing scenarios, and using the Alphamantis track aero testing technology to measure the impact they have on a rider's performance.

We tested bike position options, equipment options (helmets and wheels), body shaping options while riding, and clothing options. Over the course of the session, incremental improvements in the rider's aerodynamics were identified, all while ensuring the rider's position was still bio-mechanically effective and comfortable for the rider when considering the events they are targeting.

Thought I'd share a few examples of comparison test results along the way. I can't say much about the rider, or the exact details of each options tested, but suffice to say they are targeting road time trials and track endurance events.

Put a lid on it


Aero helmets are known to give good aerodynamic benefit but which helmet is best for any individual is quite variable. In any case, the team immediately saw the sizeable benefit of one aero lid over the rider's existing standard "mass start" helmet. These were not the only options tested but just shown as a comparison example.


Putting that into perspective, at this rider's Function Threshold Power, that's a gain of more than 0.6km/h or 1.1 seconds per kilometre on flat road terrain. Some people will gain more speed and some less from an aero helmet, and no one helmet brand or model is the best choice for every rider. Some provide more speed gains than others.

The value of a good shrug


Next example is how you can gain speed by "shrugging" (or "turtling") such that you bring your head down and narrow your shoulders while riding in the TT position, but do so without compromising your power output. Sometimes riders learn to be able to do this for extended periods of time, but it's a technique mainly for shorter road TTs and individual pursuit, not so much for the Ironman athletes out there. The gains can be well worth it if you are able to hold onto a shrug for a while.


In this rider's case, they can increase road time trial speed by nearly 0.5km/h or gain nearly 0.9 seconds per km while they shrug. For some riders there are bike position set ups and helmets that enable the rider to shrug more easily or hold it for longer. Ideally you'd like to set up the bike such that the effect is a full time enhancement, however this is not always feasible, so being on the lookout for more free speed-gaining opportunities is worth a go.

Skinsuits. Choose wisely.


The final example I thought I'd share from the testing session was some skinsuit options. Here we can see the difference between three suits tested.


The best suit is about 0.4km/h or 0.6 seconds per km faster than the team issue suit at this rider's pursuit power on a track. That gives them a 25 metre lead over the slower suit by lap 12.

Overall we identified a 0.033m^2 reduction in this rider's coefficient of drag area, which is equivalent to a 35 watt power saving, or a little over 3 seconds per km or a speed gain of 1.7 km/h.

Talk about a winning margin.

Discussing track test routine with one of the course participants.

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